07/13/09: Bishop Bud Cederholm writes:
“Rejection stinks. My resolution to change the annual parochial report of the Episcopal Church to include costs and units of energy consumed by a congregation did not make it through the House of Deputies. Despite my, I hope, stirring plea that global warming (and its effects) is the most critical moral, ethical and justice issue the church faces, delegates could not envision how reporting on energy consumption fits into the parochial report, one argument being that most would simply leave that item blank. My argument (based on our experience in Massachusetts when we asked our congregations to report, and about one-third did) that it was an attention getter and led many congregations to want to do something to reduce their energy consumption and carbon footprint, did not carry the day.
“All is not lost. The bishops did pass a resolution supporting Bishop Steven Charleston’s Genesis Covenant that asks all congregations and dioceses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in all our buildings by 50 percent in 10 years. If we commit to this covenant, then every congregation will do the calculations the amended parochial report would have asked for.
“The earth didn’t move when the bishops voted to enter into conversations with the Church of Sweden for purposes of seeking full communion (as we have with the Lutherans and will continue to do with the Methodist, Moravian and Presbyterian churches), but my Swedish heart rejoiced. Mine was the loudest yea. Not many around me were for giving high fives. Guess that makes me a minority.
“What really is causing my heart to rejoice are the witnesses of young people, as Tom has already mentioned. Arrington Chambliss and a small team of the relational evangelists from our diocese are actively witnessing and working for mission priorities and connecting this to our life in Christ. Two high school students spoke to the House of Bishops about their life in the church and challenged the bishops to listen and be involved with youth who are right here in our dioceses seeking faith and community. Their voice is prophetic and practical. One young man stated that we no longer are fishers of people, as our Lord directed his disciples to be, but we are “keepers of the aquarium”—interesting image of the church! He drew that conclusion after reading the convention report on evangelism that stated that, of congregations reporting, only 21 percent said they were involved in evangelism significantly.
“I was blessed by two gatherings this week. The United Thank Offering (UTO) dinner was the first, where the important work of women and the UTO grants were celebrated. Bishop Michael Curry gave a stirring sermon using the word “GO!” to define Christian witness, whether to build God’s kingdom of justice and peace or in making disciples. The other gathering was the Episcopal Women’s Caucus breakfast, where we heard the moving and compelling history toward achieving equality and inclusion in the church for women, African-Americans and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. Bishop Barbara Harris got a standing ovation in celebration of the 20th anniversary of her election and consecration as the first female bishop in the Anglican Communion, and there was hearty prayer and applause to mark the 35th anniversary of the ordination of the Philadelphia 11, those first women “irregularly” ordained to the priesthood. This was especially meaningful, as two of those women, Merrill Bittner and Betty Bone Shiess, were classmates of mine in seminary at Bexley Hall, and one of the consecrating bishops, Dan Corrigan, was its dean when I was there (a former priest in our diocese and Michael Corrigan’s father). These three persons taught this white male of privilege a lot in those years.
“As we are still discussing the blessing of marriage of same-sex couples, I was deeply moved by a letter from one of our dear friends, Joy Howard. Joy and her spouse, Pam Werntz, celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary this week. She sent me a quote by Justice Marshall when the court ruled for equality of marriage in Massachusetts. Her words reminded me that sometimes in cases of civil rights, the state gets it right before the church and individuals do (civil and voting rights of women and African-Americans, for example, with the church coming along later in its attitudes and canons). Such is the case on marriage for gay and lesbian persons.
“Justice Marshall writes: ‘Marriage bestows enormous private and social advantages on those who choose to marry. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another person and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity and family because it fulfills the yearnings for security, safe haven and connection that expresses our common humanity. Civil marriage is an esteemed institution and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self definition.’ How’s that for theology and justice making!”